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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Evicting secure social tenants

Eviction should be a last resort for the Housing Executive and housing associations.  

They should only evict you if other ways to sort out the problems in your tenancy failed. 

Your landlord will follow a different process to end your tenancy if 

Other ways to sort out problems in your tenancy 

Your landlord should help you if you're having problems in your tenancy.  

Before starting legal action to evict you for owing rent, your landlord should 

Before starting legal action to evict you for antisocial behaviour, your landlord should 

Your landlord should contact social services before starting the eviction process if 

  • there are children in your home, or 
  • there are any vulnerable adults in your home.  

Finding out about an eviction 

Your landlord has to write to tell you if they decide to evict you.  

They have to send you a letter, called a notice seeking possession.  

This notice will give you 28 days to move out of the property. But, you don't have to leave just because you got this notice. Your landlord still has to take you to court.  

Contact our helpline if you get a notice seeking possession from your landlord. 

Getting a court date for eviction 

Your landlord can ask the court for a date for a hearing once the 28 days in your notice pass. They can ask for a court date sooner if you've been accused of antisocial behaviour. 

Your landlord has to ask for a court hearing within 12 months of you getting the notice.  

Your landlord can take you to  

  • county court if they want to end your tenancy 
  • magistrates court if they just want to get the rent you owe.  

Eviction hearing at court 

The judge will look at your landlord's paperwork. They will ask to speak to you and to your landlord.  

The judge can order you to leave your home if 

  • your landlord has followed the proper legal process and 
  • you've broken the terms of your tenancy agreement, and 
  • the judge thinks it's reasonable to evict you 

But, the judge can also 

  • dismiss the case 
  • postpone the case to a later date 
  • allow you to keep living at your home as long as you agree to certain conditions 

You can have an adviser or solicitor at court with you. 

Contact our helpline if you have to go to court. We may be able to send an adviser to help you.  

What to expect at court eviction hearings 

These days, most court hearings are online, but some will happen in the courthouse. Your letter from the court will tell you whether your hearing is in person or online. 

Both in-person and online county court hearings are public. This means anyone can sit in on a hearing. Your case will be one of many the judge will deal with that day.   

Your case will be listed as your landlord versus your name. The clerk will call your case when the judge is ready to speak to you. You need to be in court or logged in on your computer from the time on your court letter. You then wait to hear your case called. 

The judge will explain the process to you. Your landlord will send a solicitor or housing officer. They will speak to the judge first.  

The judge will then ask you some questions. Make sure to tell the judge 

  • any reasons that explain why you broke your contract 
  • any changes that mean you won't break the contract again 
  • any particular difficulties you, or anyone else in the home, has that would make it difficult to move home.  

Getting help at court hearings 

Housing Rights sends advisers to court to help people who are being evicted because of unpaid rent. Our adviser may come up to you on the day of your hearing to ask if you want help.  

Contact our helpline if you’d like help with your hearing. 

Making an agreement at court 

You can stay in your home if you and your landlord make an agreement about your future behaviour.  

You should always get advice before agreeing to these conditions. If you break the conditions, you will lose your home. It’s important to make sure that you can stick to these agreements.

The judge's decision 

The judge can make different decisions about your case. Their decision is based on the evidence and on what the law says.  The judge can decide to 

  • make a possession order, meaning your right to live in the tenancy will end 
  • make a stayed possession order, meaning you can keep living in your home as long as you stick to certain conditions 
  • postpone the case to a later date, maybe to allow you time to get advice 
  • dismiss the case. 

If you don’t understand the decision, ask the judge to explain what it means. 

After the court hearing 

The court will send you a copy of any order the judge made. You should get this within a month of your hearing.  

You'll get a date to move out if the judge made a possession order and didn't stay or suspend this. You'll need to find a new home. You can 

Contact our helpline for advice if you have to move out.  

Your landlord can "enforce" the possession order if you don't move out. This means taking you to another court, called The Enforcement of Judgments Office.